Montana State University’s recent construction boom is proof that while many areas of construction have slowed, higher education has remained strong in the Rocky Mountain region. With more than $70 million in current projects and a handful of recently completed jobs on the Bozeman campus, the body of work reflects a growing university’s need for improved technology and more space.

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Gaines Hall Renovation

The biggest project on campus, the $32.5-million renovation of Gaines Hall, took the original 1960s building and stripped it back to its skeletal frame. When complete, the new building will be seismically upgraded with substantial structural upgrades.

Karen Hedglin, Montana State University project manager, calls the Gaines Hall renovation the “perfect storm of challenges.”

Mike Dowling, principal at Dowling Sandholm Architects in Helena, agrees. He says that from a design standpoint, it was difficult working within the confines of the original structure. Another issue: portions of the building must remain in use during construction.

The renovation will update classrooms, offices, labs; add a 270-person lecture theater and provide enhanced ADA access.

The old building had minimal technology, but the renovated building will feature tiered classrooms that allow for more interactive instruction.

“It has high technology for our campus,” says Walter Banzinger, the university’s director of facilities planning design and construction. “It will allow the faculty to use varying teaching styles and will have an impact not only on how they teach but also in retention and recruitment.”

The project is a joint effort between the school and the state Architectural and Engineering Department. When complete, Gaines Hall will be one of the first LEED-certified state buildings in Montana. “It is also the most ambitious,” Dowling adds.

But LEED certification was not part of the original plan. As the design developed, the project team thought it could submit the new building for LEED Silver, possibly even Gold. The changes added less than $20,000 to the construction cost.

“A lot of credit goes to the architects and builder because LEED wasn’t in the original plan,” Banzinger says. “The building was well designed, and they didn’t need to add a lot to get it a LEED certification.”

All the design and initial coordination was done using building information modeling, which allowed the construction team to coordinate during preconstruction and address conflicts before construction, Banzinger adds.

In addition to many structural upgrades, the building required changes that would meet the needs of MSU students. “Almost every student would need to go through the building at some point,” Banzinger says. “The upgrades will create a place to come in and socially interact.”

The Gaines Hall renovation began in March 2008 and is scheduled to be complete in July.

Animal Bioscience Building

Another MSU project scheduled for completion this summer is the new three-story, 40,000-sq-ft Animal...